USA re-elected to a seat on Human Rights Committee

November 13, 2012

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the General Assembly Stakeout Following the Human Rights Council Elections

November 12, 2012

Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. The United States is pleased and proud to have been reelected for a second, three-year term to the UN Human Rights Council.  Four years ago, we took the decision that we could improve the work of the Human Rights Council by working within it rather than staying on the outside, and today the international community reaffirmed that it agrees with that judgment.

We want to thank all four of our highly qualified competitor countries for what was a very spirited campaign. Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Greece all are strong friends and partners, allies of the United States, and champions for human rights around the world. Each of them is deserving of a seat on the Council, and we look forward to continuing our work with them and others to advance human rights around the world.

We made the decision in 2009 to seek a seat on the Human Rights Council because the United States believes that we must be at the forefront of speaking out against human rights abuses and speaking up in favor of those who are suffering and living under the grip of the world’s cruelest regimes. And we are convinced that we are more likely and better positioned to strengthen the Human Rights Council by continuing our participation in it.  I’m proud to say that today the Obama Administration’s leadership at the Human Rights Council has delivered real results. Today’s vote affirms that active U.S. leadership in the Human Rights Council and throughout the United Nations system will continue to pay real dividends for Americans and for the rest of the world.

While we have much more work still to do, today’s election gives the United States the opportunity to build on our accomplishments, to speak out about persistent shortcomings—including the Council’s excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel—and to stand up for the human rights and values that are central to who we are as Americans and people of this world. Thank you very much.

Reporter:  --just on a specific issue that’s in front of the Council. Two rapporteurs, Mr. Heinz and Emerson, have said they want the Council to look into this issue of drone strikes, that they think that it may raise issues under human rights law. Do you think—I mean, do you think that’s an appropriate thing for the Council to do? And what will be the U.S. position on that inquiry?

Ambassador Rice: Well, we have questions about the appropriateness of that approach.  But we will look at it on its merits, and as we do with all the work of the rapporteurs, we’ll judge their work on the substance of their products.

Reporter: Ambassador, rights groups have criticized about seven of the new members that have joined the Council for having spotty records of their own. Do you foresee any difficulties in working with some of these countries that do, you know, violate rights in their own countries?

Ambassador Rice: Well, as you know, the United States publishes its annual human rights reports in which we outline in detail our concerns about every country with respect to their human rights records. Clearly, we believe that there is advantage when we have competitive slates, as we did this time in the Western European and Other Group.  Those competitive slates often give the membership an opportunity to better make those sorts of distinctions.  That didn’t apply in our case within the Western Group, but obviously, in some instances, we have seen the benefits of competitive slates in terms of ensuring that those worst abusers of human rights are not elected to the Council.

Reporter: Ambassador, some people think that it’s a waste of time for the U.S. to be on this body, that there’s not really a substantive improvement over the Human Rights Commission. What would you say to those critics? And then, second question, un-related to this: What are the—how do you see your future in the second Obama Administration? Are you going to stay here in New York or might you move to the State Department or become National Security Advisor? What might you say to that?

Ambassador Rice: As to your first question, Lou, the United States is clearly of the view that the Human Rights Council has its flaws, and I just enumerated a couple of them, including its excessive focus on Israel.  But it is also a body that is increasingly proving its value, and we’ve been proud to contribute to some of what we think are the finer moments of the Human Rights Council: its approach to Syria, its approach to Sudan, its approach to the situation in Libya with the Commission of Inquiry.  I could name many other instances—it’s standing up now strongly in support of the protection of the rights of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.  It’s staked out important and, we think, comparatively progressive positions on the difficult issue of defamation of religion.  So, across the board, there’s been real important progress, and we’ve been proud to be part of that.  And that’s why we wanted to run for a second term, so that we could build on that progress in partnership with others and prove that even those elements of the system which have their flaws can benefit from strong American leadership joined with the principled leadership of others around the world.

Lou, with respect to your question about me, I love my job here at the United Nations.  I always have.  I always will—especially today.  And I look forward to continuing to serve for as long as President Obama would like me to.

Thank you all very much.